Calling Guantanamo Bay an “international embarrassment,” Eric H. Holder, Jr., one of the two remaining appointees on Barack Obama’s vice presidential search team, said the next president must close the detention facility and transfer prisoners to military prisons.
In a speech given Friday evening to the American Constitution Society convention in Washington, D.C., Holder charged, “For the last 6 years the position of leader of the Free World has been largely vacant.”
Obama’s VP search adviser, Eric H. Holder, Jr.
In his half-hour address culminating in a standing ovation from the 350 attendees in the audience, Holder made no reference to the scandals which have forced Washington insider Jim Johnson to resign from Obama’ vice presidential search committee or to the controversial role he played as deputy attorney general pushing the Marc Rich pardon in the closing days of the Clinton administration.
Instead, in his Friday evening speech at the ACS convention, Holder devoted his entire time to criticizing the Bush administration on the conduct of the war on terror, strongly suggesting that a President Obama would pursue a rights-oriented approach to dealing with suspected terrorists and captured enemy combatants.
Holder charged the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay was a “moral hazard,” which he compared to the original constitutional flaw that permitted slavery to continue, to President Lincoln’s decision to suspend habeas corpus during the Civil War and to the decision by President Franklin Roosevelt to create the Japanese internment camps during World War II.
“We have squandered one of our greatest strengths as a nation,” Holder said, taking a partisan swipe at the Bush administration.
He insisted it was disgraceful that the Supreme Court “had to order the president to treat detainees in accord with the Geneva Convention.”
Here Holder referred to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision last Thursday in the Boumediene v. Bush case, ruling that suspected terrorists such as those currently being held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to challenge their incarceration in federal courts.
Senator John McCain has called the court’s decision “one of the most chilling legal rulings in my lifetime,” charging alleged foreign combatants should not have the same rights as those fighting to protect our nation.
“In the months and years since 9/11, the Bush administration took many steps that were excessive and unlawful,” Holder continued. “We authorized torture and we let fear take precedence over the rule of law, as we overreacted to perceived danger.”
In addition to closing Gitmo, Holder insisted the next president should:
- Declare without qualification a policy that the United States will not torture political detainees, engage in forced interrogations or submit people to degrading treatment in prison;
- End all programs, covert or otherwise, to transfer detainees to nations that practice torture;
- Stop domestic search and seizures without warrant and end wiretapping of citizens.
“We have lost our way before,” Holder told the 350 attendees at the Friday evening session. “Now we must step back into the shining path envisioned by our founding fathers in such icons of liberty as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”
“There is evil in the world and we face grave threats to our national security,” Holder admitted, “but we must reclaim our moral leadership by no longer letting fear rule our reactions.”
“When the new administration takes over on January 20, 2009, we will be looking for folks who share our values,” he proclaimed, assuming Barack Obama would defeat John McCain.
Holder and Caroline Kennedy now constitute Barack Obama’s two-person vice-presidential search committee, after Jim Johnson was forced to resign amid revelations he had received reduced rates on at least 5 preferential real estate loans totaling some $7 million from troubled subprime mortgage banker Countrywide Financial and lucrative executive compensation as chief executive officer both at Fannie Mae and UnitedHealthCare.
Holder himself has come under criticism for his role as deputy attorney general in the final days of the Clinton administration, when he pushed a request to pardon Mark Rich, ignoring the Department of Justice to consult the prosecutors who were still making efforts to apprehend the international fugitive.
In 1983, then U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani indicted commodity trader Rich on charges of evading more than $48 million in taxes and trading oil illegally with Iran during a Carter administration crisis wherein U.S. embassy personnel in Tehran were held hostage by Iranian radicals for 444 days.
Rich was in Switzerland at the time of his indictment and he refused to return to the United States to face prosecution.
At the time of the pardon, Time magazine charged that Rich’s socialite ex-wife had donated an estimate $1 million to Democratic causes, including $70,000 to Hillary Clinton’s successful senate campaign and $450,000 to Clinton’s presidential library fund.
On Saturday, the American Constitution Society ended its two-day national convention in Washington, D.C., titled, “Revitalizing Our Democracy: Progress and Possibilities.”
The ACS describes itself as “one of the nation’s leading progressive legal organizations,” a description which positions the ACS on the political left.
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